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Full text of "Mathematical And Physical Papers - Iii"

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396          ON  THE  CHANGE  OF  REFRANGIBILITY  OF  LIGHT.
production or non-production of dispersed light establishes at once a broad distinction between different kinds of absorption. I do not think that much stress can be laid on this distinction. In the first place it may be remarked, that we have no reason to suppose that vibrations which are of the same nature as those of light are confined to the range of refrangibility that the human eye can take in. If, therefore, no dispersed light be perceived, it does not follow that no invisible rays are dispersed. If the incident light belong to the visible part of the spectrum, the dispersed rays (if any), being of lower refrangibility than the incident light, can only be invisible by having a refrangibility less than that of red light, and would manifest themselves solely or mainly by their heating effect. However, though invisible rays of this nature are in all probability emitted by the body in consequence of the absorption of visible light, we are not bound to suppose that in their mode of emission they precisely resemble the visible rays observed in the phenomena of internal dispersion. In most cases, perhaps, they are more nearly analogous to the visible rays emitted by solar phosphori. It is possible to conceive, and it seems probable that there exist, various degrees of molecular connexion from mere casual juxtaposition to the closest chemical union. A compound molecule may vibrate as a whole, by virtue of its connexion with adjacent molecules, or it may vibrate by itself, in the manner of an isolated vibrating plate or rod, and between these extreme limits we may conceive various intermediate modes of vibration. Hence, without departing from the general supposition that the absorption of light is due to the production of molecular disturbances, we may conceive that the modes in which the ether communicates its vibrations to the molecules, and the molecules in turn communicate their disturbances to the ether, arc very various.
I do not bring forward the idea that the absorption of light is due to the production of molecular disturbances as new, though possibly the communication of the ethereal vibrations to the molecules may hitherto have been supposed necessarily to imply the existence of synchronous vibrations among the molecules. The change in the periodic time of vibrations which takes place in the process of internal dispersion would hardly have been suspected, had it not been for the singular phenomenon which pointed it out.